Reflecting on The Importance of a Life
In a world filled with billions of people, one human being can be basically insignificant. Insignificant except to those who crossed paths with that human. For each of us, the importance of what we leave behind are the lessons shared. What is most intriguing is that the lessons my brothers shared with me are my personal lessons. Others who knew them learned other things. That all by itself is fascinating when you think about it. Perceptions are what makes us all so unique.
I feel an incredible need to share my perceptions of my brothers’ lessons to me, maybe as closure but also maybe to acknowledge that their lives were important. Every person is significant to someone.
From my oldest brother, who was six years older than me, I learned the value of honor. It was during his life with me, that I had opportunity to study and to decide what role honor (respect) would play in my life, which traditions were important to uphold, and how to understand and respect the rule of law. Something, though, in his interactions with me also made me feel that I had the right to form my own judgement about some things. With him, I learned the difference between “Everybody does it this way, so this is way we do it” and “You’re smart. You can decide.”
There were times, though, when he opposed my decisions and tried to push harder on his lessons of tradition, loyalty and vows. Sometimes, I’d listen. Sometimes, I wouldn’t. I’d successfully learned the value of my ability to choose.
But from him, I also learned responsibility. He wasn’t given the choice to take over the reigns of our dad when he passed so young. To him, there was only one decision. He had to step into daddy’s place. Over the years, now too many to count, I have found myself stepping in to help, feeling that I truly don’t have a choice. But of course I know now, that is my choice. Am I always responsible? When I choose to be.
He was 18 months older than me. We grew up together. We were babies together though I don’t remember much of that; just stories I’ve heard! I was not the good baby.
We were little kids together. He would be the first to teach me bad habits. We played with matches and of course I was the one to start the house of fire. We once took a whole pack of cigarettes to the woods to smoke. We didn’t come home until they were gone. Wonder what we smelled like.
We were teenagers together. These were hard years for me. He taught me some things that I would spend the rest of my life studying…the power of ridicule and teasing. He was often critical of how I looked and dressed during those awkward years. And, I think his power over me set my earliest feelings of resentment towards traditional gender roles. He enjoyed, a bit too much, using his power to insist that his shirts be ironed (does anybody do this anymore?) And not only ironed but ironed a specific way. He never had to cook or clean and because he wasn’t the oldest, he didn’t need to take on the father role like David did. He had a pretty duty free life actually. Then the draft ended and he didn’t even need to serve in the military like his brother had done.
Then we were adults together, though apart. We didn’t see life through the same eyes. But when he survived a massive heart attach, I learned loyalty. I did the best I could to stay by his side, carrying out our traditional gender roles. It’s what he knew and understood best. I also learned about fear and judgement. He’d share stories of why some, maybe most, of his choices had been driven by fear. I know there were many times that I assumed I understood and was critical. I did not understand. As time went on, his fears grew out of control and that turned into anger and hatred. These two emotions allow a brain to turn a blind eye to truth and reality. And when it takes over total control, it spews out in insults and attacks on people he needs and loves. The lesson from anger and hatred? Watch out! It will swallow you up.
He was two years younger than me. I was then the big sister who needed to show him the ropes, so to speak. Now I am going to say that I was not very good at this job. which is maybe why one of the lessons I’d learn from him was independence. For a long long time, he went his own way. Still it was from this brother that I learned the deepest lessons about guilt. Guilt is one of those emotions, like anger, hatred and fear that can consume a person. And so, I would spend years weighing the choices – should I or shouldn’t I help? Am I helping enough? Am I helping too much? He was fiercely independent…he needed help…he was independent…he needed help. Finally guilt won, to a degree. For a few years, I would find a way to help and not question his need for independence. It was a compromise for both of us. And in the end, fate would intervene and his independence would be taken from him. It’s when you witness a person losing their spirit that I think I finally learned unconditional love. He was thankful that I was there. He trusted that I loved him. And I knew that no matter what, he had always loved me too.
I Had Three Brothers
Their lives though, to most, insignificant. But they were more than significant to me. We were siblings and not always friends. And yet, I can say that I am who I am today because of each of them. Everyone in our lives is a teacher and it is with deep and humble gratitude that I thank them for being three of the best teachers in my life. I will not forget the lessons. I will never forget their lives.
In Memory and With Love
David – 11/28/1944 – 3/18/1998 Jerry – 07/21/1948 – 11/16/2019 Chris – 12/25/1952 – 3/25/2013